Bucharest, Romania:Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi relied on their experience to keep India afloat in the Davis Cup World Group play-off against Romania as the duo quelled the challenge of Horia Tecau and Adrian Cruciat 6-4 7-6 (0) 6-4 in the doubles rubber on Saturday.
The ace Indian pair had to toil hard to defeat the Romanian duo, who tested their opponents with an all round game but could not stop the visitors from reducing the margin to 1-2 in the five-match tie.
The reverse singles will be played tomorrow and Prakash Amritraj and Somdev Devvarman have a daunting task ahead as they seek to steer India to the World Group stage for the first time since 1998.
The Indians were a trifle patchy right through the contest but were still good enough to get the better of the Romanians in a contest which lasted close to three hours.
The 'Indian Express' saved a breakpoint in the very first game of the match and squandered two on their opponents' serve in the fourth game, letting the scoreline to be 2-2.
Down 30-40 when Cruciat made a volley error, Tecau came up with brilliant serve and Bhupathi's return could not cross the net as Romanians saved the first breakpoint.
A double fault gave the Indian pair another breakpoint but Cruciat warded off the threat, exploiting the gap between Paes and Bhupathi.
The Romanians broke the Indians in the fifth game only to be broken back in the next, giving Paes and Bhupathi the chance to claw their way back into the match.
In the fifth game, when backhands of both the Indians were buried to net in first two points, making it 0-30 for the Romanians, Cruciat hit a stunning return winner on the serve of Bhupathi to earn three breakpoints and converted first to go up 3-2.
The Indians raised their game and fought back brilliantly in the next game to neutralise the lead. Bhupathi was brilliant with his reflexes on the net and India won the sixth game in which Paes was hit on the eye by a Tecau volley. Next three games went with serve, and a superb lob by Bhupathi in the 10th game gave India first set point which they converted through Bhupathi's winner.
One set up, Indians were broken in the first game of the second set though they saved four breakpoints in the game as Romanians wrested the early initiative.
The Indians got their first chance to break back in the fourth game but the hosts' played well to negotiate the Indian attack and did not let them make a comeback.
However, the 'Indian Express' continued their attack and earned three breakpoints but Tecau once again served brilliantly to save all three.
The Indians missed one more breakpoint but converted their fifth chance when Cruciat hit Paes' overhead volley to net, making it 3-3.
Bhupathi, Cruciat and Paes easily held their serves in the next three games, without losing a single point, and India led the set at 5-4.
The Indian pair had a chance to wrap up the second set as they had triple set points in the 12th game but backhand errors by Bhupathi and Paes and then an ace by Cruciat brought the game to deuce and eventually Romanians won the game and issue was stretched to the tie-breaker.
The experienced Indian duo dominated the tie-breaker as they won it by 7-0 and consolidated their lead in the match.
Once the Indians got the break in the fifth game of the third set, Romanians dropped the intensity and Indians easily won the set.
They saved two breakpoints in the eighth game, denying Romanians any chance to come back but wasted two match points in the ninth game.
Bhupathi served for match in the 10th game and the Indian after wasting another three match points, converted the fourth chance to seal the issue.